Unwind with these worldly webs of intrigue for fall

Does the approach of autumn's more rigid schedules and cooling temperatures seem like too much to bear? Give the excitement of summer one last hurrah. Take a vicarious wild ride with these volumes of international thrills.

"Outlaws Inc."

by Matt Potter

Bloomsbury, $27

Journalist Matt Potter spins a nonfiction tale more suspenseful and compelling than any espionage novel. A decade in the making, "Outlaws Inc." tells the story of "Mickey" (a pseudonym) and others like him, former military men who found themselves at loose ends when the Soviet Union collapsed. Mickey set himself up as a freelance pilot, flying anything anywhere for anyone.

His plane of choice, the Ilyushin-76, has a hidden advantage: a secret space for 15 extra tons of cargo. The rogue airmen of Potter's book take full advantage of this space to carry profitable, and frequently illegal, cargo. They might fly food aid into a war zone for the U.N., along with a secret shipment of arms that will fuel the conflict. But this is not merely a case of a few lone wolves sowing chaos.

Potter makes clear that much higher authorities in government and commerce are involved in this shadow economy. He carefully pieces together firsthand interviews and expert testimony to create an unsettling portrait of this brave new post-Cold War world. Potter's first-hand accounts of hair-raising missions, high-level obfuscation and battered humanity make his book a must-read for thrill-seekers and policy buffs alike.

"My Life as a Russian Novel"

by Emmanuel Carrere

Picador, $15

Despite its whimsical title, Emmanuel Carrere's memoir is a harrowing exploration of family, intimacy and rootlessness. The French novelist and public intellectual arrives in the Russian town of Kotelnich to film a documentary about Andras Toma, a Hungarian prisoner of war kept in a mental hospital since World War Two. Once there, Carrere becomes more interested in the backwater town itself, as well as his own family history.

Carrere's Georgian emigre grandfather collaborated with Paris' Nazi occupiers and was abducted and probably executed by Resistance members at the end of the war. Meanwhile, Carrere's relationship with his live-in lover, Sophie, has reached a precarious juncture. Trying to please her, he writes an erotic story for Le Monde that he plans for her to read as she travels to meet him on vacation. But she cancels the trip for mysterious reasons, and Carrere's ensuing suspicion has devastating consequences.

"My Life as a Russian Novel," translated beautifully by Linda Coverdale, is unflinching in its honesty. Carrere himself frequently comes off as unsympathetic, but his work is poetic, enthralling, even suspenseful.

"Hotel Bosphorus"

by Esmahan Aykol

Bitter Lemon Press, $14.95

For more lighthearted reading, turn to Esmahan Aykol's mystery, the first in a series featuring Kati Hirschel, a German immigrant to Istanbul. Kati, a free-spirited fashionista, runs a bookstore specializing in crime fiction, even though the hours sometimes keep her from sleeping as late as she would like. When her old friend, Petra Vogel, calls out of the blue, Kati finds herself in the midst of a real-life mystery.

Since their school days, Petra has become a movie star, and her latest vehicle will be filming in Kati's adopted city. Before shooting even starts, the film's director is found murdered by a hair dryer thrown into his bathtub. As rumors multiply, Petra becomes a prime suspect, and Kati decides to put into practice the detection strategies she has learned through her reading.

A dark secret from Petra's past, a passel of flustered film personalities and a hunky, if poorly dressed, police inspector ensure that Kati has her work cut out for her.

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